bins and jars filled with spices at a market

Flavor Your Meat with Spice Blends from Around the World

Nothing adds excitement to meat like a bold, complex spice blend. The varieties of tried and proven spice combinations are as varied and unique as the diverse cultures they hail from. Whether it’s seasoning beef for stew, simmering chicken for a curry, or dry-rubbing pork chops for the grill, this list of spice blends from around the world will bring a punch of flavor to your meat dishes.

Berbere

Originating in Ethiopia, berbere is perfect for those who love fiery dishes. Its heat comes from dried red hot peppers, which you can substitute for cayenne pepper in a pinch. Its complexity is provided by ginger, cardamom, and fenugreek, among others. Berbere is often used as a rub on chicken or in chicken curries, but is also delicious on burgers and meatballs.

Recommended cuts: Chicken tenders, drumsticks, or burgers

Ras el Hanout

Morrocan cuisine is well known around the world for its subtle combinations of sweet and spicy. Ras el hanout is a blend that embodies Morrocan cooking, and like many spice blends, its ingredients can vary depending on the recipe. It combines the rich flavors of cinnamon, coriander, and all spice with the heat of cayenne and white pepper, and adds in the complex herbal nature of anise seed. Many chicken, chicken-based stews, or sweet-and-savory lamb dishes use this blend.

Recommended cuts: Chicken breast and chicken thighs

Cajun Seasoning

We’d be remiss to mention spice blends without mentioning Cajun seasoning. Hailing from Louisiana, this spice blend typifies the fusion of French, African, Afro-Caribbean, and Spanish culinary traditions in the region. It’s easy to make using just a handful of common household spices: paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, cayenne, salt, and pepper. Cajun seasoning is often reserved for a variety of surf and turf dishes, and packs both zest and heat.

Recommended cuts: New York strip and sockeye salmon

Tempero Baiano

For a savory spice that pairs well with just about anything, look no further than Brazil. Tempero Baiano, which originates from the Brazil state Bahia, combines earthy notes into a zesty blend, and draws influence from both Europe and Africa. With parsley, cumin, turmeric, nutmeg, and chili flakes, this blend is excellent on chicken and seafood.

Recommended cuts: Chicken wings and scallops

Khmeli Suneli

Georgia is a small country between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. One of the classic Georgian spice blends is khmeli suneli, often referred to as Georgian five spice. With fenugreek, coriander, savory, dill, and bay leaves, this blend will offers a warm, nutty flavor to just about any meat dish.

Recommended cuts: Pork chops and tri tip

Shichimi Togarishi

Japanese cuisine is no stranger to heat. Shichimi togarashi, also known as the seven spice blend, is packed full of spicy power. With chili flakes, ginger, sesame seeds, Sichuan peppercorns and crumbled toasted nori, this blend is perfect for soups, noodle dishes. It’s also great for seasoning grilled meats and seafood.

Recommended cuts: Sockeye salmon and ribeye

Baharat

Baharat is a Middle-Eastern spice blend that provides savory, smoky flavor to any protein of choice. Often used as a spice rub, it combines paprika, nutmeg, coriander, pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and cumin. However, you can also use it as a marinade by blending the mix with oil and lime or lemon juice.

Recommended cuts: Whole chicken and New York strip

Garam Masala

Used to flavor dishes like saags and curries, garam masala is an essential Indian spice blend. However, like most seasonings, it varies greatly from region to region and even from family to family. This particular blend uses 10 different spices, but feel free to make small adjustments to proportions to your liking. Use it in your favorite Indian recipes or to season meat before grilling or baking.

Recommended cut: Chicken thighs 

littauer jonathan
Jonathan Littauer
Jonathan is a freelance writer/editor and rock climbing route-setter based in Boston, MA. When he’s not wielding words or making people fall off walls, he’s probably outside somewhere, hiking or climbing or surfing poorly. He’s been known, on occasion, to drop everything and travel the world for months at a time. Learn more about Jonathan at www.jonathanlittauer.com.